The Choise of Valentines, Or the Merie Ballad of Nash His Dildo


My little dilldo shall suply their kinde:
A knaue, that moues as light as leaues by winde;
That bendeth not, nor fouldeth anie deale,
But stands as stiff as he were made of steele;

A salacious post for chocolate-and-roses day. There’s a degree of confusion around this work and its author, an Elizabethan poet, playwright and pamphleteer. The poem, which was distributed privately, dates from around 1593 and has a variety of titles, while its author is variously credited as Thomas Nashe or Thomas Nash. Despite the bawdy reputation of the Elizabethan era Nash’s contemporaries were sufficiently scandalised by the poem for it to remain unpublished, with the result that it survives imperfectly in a few handwritten copies. It’s a lengthy piece so let’s go to Wikipedia for a précis:

It describes the visit of a young man named “Tomalin” to the brothel where his girlfriend Frances (“Frankie”) is employed. Having paid ten gold pieces for her favours, Tomalin is embarrassed to find that merely lifting her skirts makes him lose his erection. She perseveres in arousing him however and they make love, but to her disappointment he has an orgasm before her. Frankie then decides to take matters into her own hands: hence the informal title by which the poem was known, Nashe’s Dildo.

The Oxford English Dictionary credits Nash with the first appearance in English of the word “dildo”, a term “of obscure origin” we’re told, whose usage here predates John Florio’s Worlde of Wordes (1598), Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610), and Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale (1611). Nash’s achievement is something of a cheat since his poem wasn’t actually published until 1899, and then in a private edition. As usual the Internet Archive has the book in question, and it’s their version which follows, albeit without the copious footnotes.

The Renaissance English Literature site has more about Thomas Nash (or Nashe), his life and his work.

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